We have reached what I like to call the “Reefer Madness” phase of America's obsession with the Evils of Social Media! People are making the most outlandish claims about the “corrosive” effects of social media on American society, on teenagers, on democracy, on health, on race relations-- on everything!
The overall theme: Social Media sucks.
In a recent article with the even-tempered and perfectly plausible title, "Social Media Has Become Toxic and Lost All Sense and Purpose," a tech website called Gadgets360 said, “WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are no longer conduits of meaningful social interaction but toxic havens of misinformation, clickbait, propaganda, and brand marketing."
Swim around on Reddit.com for a few minutes and you can catch a lot of anti-social media grousing.
Reddit is often described as a “social news aggregator and discussion site.” Digitaltrends.com put it nicely when they said, "Reddit has become the comments section to every corner of pop culture."
In an astonishing case of Social Media Self-Loathing, Reddit has a sub-reddit that's called "SocialMediaSucks," which is described as being "For those who hate social media (Reddit included)."
One Grumpy Gus on Reddit called social media, “a cesspool of people overobsessed with their lives and want to show off how f***ing awesome their life is to everyone.”
Another opinion, posted a coupla sub-reddits over, ended with, “Well goodbye forever social media, why did I even have you in the first place.”
In a recent Forbes.com article, authoress Jeanne Croteau, says “social media can be a scary place.” She claims to have “a wide variety of 'friends' on Facebook.” But, she says, “It feels like a punch in the face when they post something and I realize that I don’t really know them that well at all.” She tells us that social media is “toxic.” (Four times! There's that word again! And again! And again!)
Another Forbes screed lists the many downsides of social media, saying that Facebook and Twitter and Snapchat are “addictive,” and that quitting them often involves “withdrawal.” They cited a “study” that concluded that interacting with Facebook may undermine the “well-being” of teens. (Is there anything that doesn’t undermine the well-being of teens?) “Comparing our lives with others is mentally unhealthy” reads the subhead. “It can lead to jealousy-- and a vicious cycle,” reads another. And so it may be. But should we really blame social media?
Google the words “I hate twitter” and stand back as citation after citation offers yet another reason why the “online news and social networking service” with the funny blue bird is the worst Silicon Valley has to offer and it starts with “T” and that stands for “TROUBLE!”
How did this happen? Is it actually happening? Do a significant number of people “hate” Twitter? Are that many people “addicted” to Instagram? Are there that many people who honestly find Facebook to be “toxic?” Or are there just a bunch of loud, vocal “influencers” who want to you to believe that social media is hell?
One person who probably believes Twitter to be "hell" right now is Roseanne Barr. A careless tweet by Barr resulted in the cancellation of her TV show-- with an audience in the millions! Surely it's a story that's still unfolding, and one that will be analyzed thoroughly. But the feature of the story I find most fascinating is that Barr is hinting that her offending tweet might have been facilitated by the ingestion of a sleep aid called Zolpidem. It's friends call it Ambien.
The "hot take" was that Barr was trying to excuse her Planet of the Apes tweet and blame it on a drug.
In the following 36 hours, however, Social Media hosted an amazing torrent of first-, second- and third-hand accounts of people doing wacky, dangerous or, in some cases, deadly things while under the influence of Ambien.
There hasn't been this much Ambien chatter since the drug first hit primetime in 2006. That was when Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy (D-RI) swerved into a concrete barrier in D.C. and said, "I simply do not remember getting out of bed, being pulled over by the police, or being cited for three driving infractions." The reason, his memory was fogged, he said was because he took Ambien.
Created in 1992, Ambien was, I suppose, a moderately successful sleeping pill until Kennedy's sleep-driving claim made headlines. (By 2000, it was making $150 million per quarter for French drugmaker Sanofi.) Now doctors fill 2.6 MILLION Ambien prescriptions every MONTH! It's making the company over a billion bucks a quarter now! But there has been rumblings that something about the drug wasn't right. Ambien started making more headlines when it was used as a defense in criminal cases-- and getting some folks off the hook.
Ambien's own MedGuide for the drug contains the following:
AMBIEN CR may cause serious side effects that you may not know are happening to you. These side effects include:
- sleepiness during the day
- not thinking clearly
- act strangely, confused, or upset
- ″sleep-walking″ or doing other activities when you are asleep like:
- having sex
- driving a car
Call your healthcare provider right away if you find out that you have done any of the above activities after taking AMBIEN CR. You should not drive a car or do things that require clear thinking the day after you take AMBIEN CR.
Another list of side effects that's making the rounds is:
Disorientation to place or time
Loss of emotional affect...
Confusion and disorientation...
Which, coincidentally, sounds an awful lot like the effects of Social Media! Or... is it coincidental?
Twitter, Facebook and Ambien all blew up at the same time-- 2006, within months of each other. I have a grand, rickety conspiracy theory that the two are linked. Roseanne's recent tribulations bring the two cultural phenomena together quite nicely!
I'm beginning to think that Social Media is, in the opinion of many, "dying," "dead," "cancer" and "a cesspool," because people are eating way too much Ambien. Furthermore, I am coming around to the idea that people are taking too much Ambien because they can't sleep at night because of Social Media. This is a theory that might have legs!
(Disclaimer: I am also the man who believed that the outbreak of "road rage" that America is experiencing [and which started in L.A. in the late '80s] is due largely to the increased availability of a decent cup of coffee. Until the late 1980s, coffee in America sucked so bad that coffee consumption was plummeting. It was, literally, a joke. The art of coffee making or roasting had not advanced significantly since forever. And, with few exceptions, the coffee sucked. Comic strips, movies, television shows-- all of them had punchlines about how bad the coffee is-- at the diner, at home, at the deli, in New York, in Chicago-- everywhere! Crappy coffee was just one of those things we accepted. But by the end of the decade, 1 out of 10 cups sold was... "specialty coffee." That's a nice name for a tool of the devil-- coffee with sky-high caffeine levels, roasted to within and inch of its life and tasting so good... why not have a sixth cup! Try to imagine the caffeine level of a cup of "dishwater," served at a diner in New Jersey in 1977. Recall the dismal, tasteless cup of joe dispensed by that vending machine in the basement where you worked your first day job. Now fast-forward to a place and time where Starbucks sell 2 of every 5 cups in the country and tell me it's not responsible for American drivers firing pistols at fellow motorists for failing to signal before a lane change. Putting a couple slugs in the rear fender of the guy in the passing lane is viewed as a viable alternative to chewing one's own tongue off.)
Combine wicked strong coffee, an Ambien hangover and 24/7 Social Media and it is understandable that fight might break out over a picture of a three-legged cat or an endorsement of the local candidate for water commissioner or a loving portrait a Rooty Tooty Fresh 'n' Fruity breakfast. If we all got clean, Social Media might be the happiest place on earth!